Hundreds of thousands of hardworking North Carolinians will no longer pay any state income tax by 2019, thanks to several rounds of tax relief provided by the legislature’s Republican majority.
A recent memo from the head economist at the non-partisan Fiscal Research Division notes that “of the nearly 4 million tax returns anticipated for tax year 2019, we estimate the number of returns will decrease an estimated 230,000 when compared with the expected number if the 2012 tax laws were still in effect. The increase in these no-tax-liability returns will be due primarily to the increase in the standard deduction.”
When you do your taxes each year, the “standard deduction” is the dollar amount that reduces the amount of income on which you’re taxed. Put another way, any income you make below the “standard deduction” is protected on the front-end from being taxed by the government. A higher standard deduction is nice for everyone, of course, but it especially benefits hard-working taxpayers at the lower-end of the wage scale. The higher the standard deduction, the less of your income is taxed; sometimes it’s referred to as “the zero tax bracket.”
Republicans have tripled the standard deduction for married families filing jointly since 2013, an approach to tax relief that helps those who earn the least by significantly reducing or altogether eliminating the percentage of their income paid to the state.
Governor Roy Cooper’s Department of Revenue believes that even more folks will be helped under the Republican plan, projecting that 241,536 low-income families and individuals will no longer pay any income tax by 2019.
When the legislature was last under Democrat control, the standard deduction was a mere $3,000 for individual taxpayers and just $6,000 for married couples (filing jointly). Democrats taxed all your income over that amount; the latest round of Republican tax reform more than tripled the state’s zero tax bracket — effectively freeing nearly a quarter of a million of lower-income people from having to pay any income tax.
“Helping hundreds of thousands of low-income North Carolinians no longer owe any income tax is an outstanding achievement that proves Republican tax reforms are providing relief to citizens who need it most,” said House Speaker Tim Moore. “These include parents and young people, long-time residents and newcomers who will get a break from owing any income tax because we put average people first with relief that works for the workforce and helps low-income families keep more of their earnings.”
Legislation passed unanimously last month by the General Assembly makes it a crime to operate drones near North Carolina’s prisons or jails.
House Bill 128 creates multiple criminal offenses for a person using an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) within 500 feet of local confinement facilities or State or federal correctional facilities (and within 250 feet vertically). These state penalties are imposed in addition to federal regulation of drones.
The bill creates three new criminal penalties for drone use at jails and prisons:
- Class H Felony: for using the drone to deliver a weapon;
- Class I Felony: for using the drone to deliver contraband such as controlled substances, cigarettes, and alcohol; and
- Class 1 Misdemeanor: for using the drone for any other purpose.
The bill also defines the procedure for confiscation and release of drones used in committing violations. The money from the sale of a seized drone would be paid into the school fund in accordance with the state constitution: Article IX, Section 7: County School Fund; State Fund For Certain Moneys.
The bill does make a few exceptions for the use of drones for those with written consent, for law enforcement and first responders, and for public utilities inspections.
The implementation of this new law, set for December 1, 2017, will help to discourage those who would attempt to help prison inmates escape, as happened earlier this month in South Carolina.
Like an updated scene from the film Escape From Alcatraz, convicted felon Jimmy Causey escaped from a maximum-security prison by using a cell phone to fly in a drone to drop off a pair of wire cutters, tricking the guards into thinking he was fast asleep using a homemade dummy. Guards didn’t realize he was gone until after lunch the following day.
Charlotte’s WSOCTV Channel 9 reports that as drones become more accessible, more and more smugglers are using drones to sneak contraband to prison inmates. According to Reporter Jason Stoogenke, cellphones, cigarettes, marijuana, and weapons are the most common contraband deliveries; he goes on to explain how a typical drone smuggling operation works. From his February 16 story:
- Drone operator smuggles a cellphone into the prison for an inmate early on
- Other prisoners then place their orders with that inmate, and he passes them on to the drone operator
- The inmates ask their loved ones outside the prison to pay the drone operator, some even use PayPal
- The inmate gets a commission, usually 10 percent
- The drone operator collects the items for the inmates
- The inmate tells the drone operator when and where to drop the items so the guards and cameras don’t see
- The drone operator hides near the prison, flies the drone and makes the delivery
- The drone operator even labels the packages so the inmate can distribute them quickly, without having to open them first
HB128 was signed into law by the governor earlier this afternoon.
North Carolina has received four national economic distinctions so far this month, including being hailed as the #1 state for starting a business, the #5 best state for business, the #5 best state for budget solvency, and one of only 12 states in the country with a unanimous ‘AAA’ bond rating.
Fit Small Business, a Madison Avenue research and consulting firm, released a study on July 3 calling North Carolina the #1 state for starting a business, citing “the state’s labor market and taxes as driving an ideal environment for business owners.”
CNBC ranked North Carolina as #5 in this year’s “America’s Top States for Business,” scoring 66 different measures of competitiveness and an array of input from business and policy experts, official government sources, the CNBC Global CFO Council and the states themselves.
The Mercatus Center at George Mason University, in ranking the states by fiscal condition, says that North Carolina is #5 for Budget Solvency. The rankings noted that North Carolina’s state revenues exceed budget expenses by 12 percent, and the fact that we’ve amassed substantial revenue surpluses and a $1.8 billion rainy day reserve fund. North Carolina ranked #15 overall for financial health.
North Carolina State Treasurer Dale R. Folwell announced last week that the nation’s three major bond rating agencies – Fitch, Moody’s and S&P – have all reaffirmed the state’s “AAA” bond rating, making North Carolina one of only 12 states to obtain a unanimous top-tier evaluation. A Fitch’s rating agency financial memo credited North Carolina’s “conservative financial operations and long-term prospects for continued economic expansion, rebuilt rainy day fund, demonstrated controls over spending, and revenue growth all as strong factors in the state’s financial flexibility. “Recent economic growth in North Carolina has been accelerating and future growth is expected to be stronger,” the financial memo supporting the state’s ‘AAA’ bond rating said.